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Plane wave scattering from a plasmonic nanowire array spacer-separated from a plasmonic

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2016 Mater. Res. Express 3 065004

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Mater. Res. Express 3 (2016) 065004 doi:10.1088/2053-1591/3/6/065004

PAPER

Plane wave scattering from a plasmonic nanowire array spacer-


separated from a plasmonic film
RECEIVED
14 September 2015
REVISED
24 February 2016
ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION
Arun Thomas1, Rahul Trivedi1 and Anuj Dhawan
31 March 2016 Department of Electrical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi Hauz Khas, New Delhi-110016, India
1
PUBLISHED Both the authors contributed equally to this work.
31 May 2016
E-mail: adhawan@ee.iitd.ac.in

Keywords: plasmonic nanowires, spacer layer, analytical solution, full-wave solution, RCWA, thickness sensing, refractive index sensing

Abstract
In this paper, we present a theoretical analysis of the electromagnetic response of a plasmonic
nanowire–spacer–plasmonic film system. The analytical solution presented in this paper is a full-wave
solution, which is used to compute the fields scattered by the plasmonic nanostructure system on
illumination by a plane electromagnetic wave. The physical structure comprises of an array of
plasmonic nanowires made of a plasmonic metal such as gold or silver placed over a plasmonic film of
the same material and separated from it by a dielectric spacer such as silica or alumina. Such a
nanostructure exhibits a spectrum that is extremely sensitive to various geometric and electromagnetic
parameters such as spacer thickness and spacer refractive index, which makes it favourable for various
sensing applications such as chemical and biological sensing, strain sensing, position sensing,
vibration sensing, and thickness sensing. We report a comparison of our analytical solution with a
numerical rigorous coupled wave analysis of the same structure with the plasmonic medium being
treated as local in nature.

1. Introduction

Surface plasmons, i.e. coherent oscillations of the conduction band electrons at metal–dielectric interfaces, can
be excited by both photons [1–3] and electrons [4]. While propagating surface plasmons can be optically exited
at the interfaces of metallic thin films, nano-gratings, and metallic thin films containing arrays of nanoholes,
localised surface plasmons can be optically excited in metallic nanoparticles in solution and nanopillars (or their
arrays) on substrates [1–7]. Optical excitation of surface plasmons at metal–dielectric interfaces at certain
wavelengths leads to large enhancements of optical near-fields in the vicinity of the metal–dielectric interfaces
[1–5].
Recently, there have been several studies of optical properties of complex plasmonic structures comprising
of plasmonic nanoparticles separated from a plasmonic film by a thin dielectric spacer layer [7–11]. Plasmon
resonances in the near-field and far-field spectra associated with such plasmonic structures are highly dependent
on the spacer layer thickness, which typically lies between 1 and 10 nm. Moreover, very large enhancement of the
EM fields occurs in the spacer material at the resonant wavelengths. These properties make such a plasmonic
structure suitable for applications such as chemical and biological sensing, strain sensing, position sensing,
vibration sensing, and thickness sensing [8]. Measurements of shifts in plasmon resonances associated with such
plasmonic structures upon changes of thickness of the spacer layer can enable the development of highly
sensitive position, strain, pressure, or vibration sensors based. Chemical and biological sensors based on these
nanostructures can also be based on measurements of shifts of plasmon resonance wavelengths upon change of
the thickness of the spacer layer—which could be caused by the binding of chemical or biological molecules
(such as antigens, nucleic acids, etc)—to receptor molecules in the spacer layer. The chemical and biological
sensing could also be based on modulation of surface-enhanced Raman scattering [13–18] or fluorescence
signals upon attachment of an analyte molecule (such as antigens, nucleic acids, etc) to a receptor molecule on
the spacer layer.

© 2016 IOP Publishing Ltd


Mater. Res. Express 3 (2016) 065004 A Thomas et al

Although there are several experimental studies [9–11] of such plasmonic structures (plasmonic
nanostructures spacer-separated from a plasmonic film), there are only a few reports [12] of accurate theoretical
analysis of the electromagnetic response of these structures. Accurate theoretical analysis (both analytical and
numerical) of the electromagnetic response of these structures can enable proper design and engineering of these
complex structures for the different applications. In this paper, we describe the theoretical analysis (both
analytical and numerical) of plane wave scattering from an array of plasmonic nanowires that is separated from a
plasmonic thin film by a spacer layer.
The analytical solution presented in this paper is a full-wave solution, which can be used to compute the
fields scattered by the plasmonic nanostructure system (plasmonic nanowire array–spacer–plasmonic thin film)
on illumination by a plane electromagnetic wave. Several authors have presented analytical solutions of the
electromagnetic fields around individual metallic nanoparticles or nanowires and their assemblies as well as
from assemblies of dielectric cylinders [19–27], but very few authors have presented solutions which take into
account the presence of the plane substrate underneath the nanostructures [28, 29]. There is no previous report
of a full-wave analytical solution of this plasmonic nanostructure system, i.e. a plasmonic nanowire array
separated from a plasmonic thin film by a spacer layer (see figure 1).
Numerical analysis of a plasmonic nanostructure–spacer–film system has been carried out before using
methods such as FDTD [12], Green’s function method and finite element method [11]. Although numerical
methods enable us to model and analyse complicated geometries, the analytical solution has its advantages in
accuracy and better convergence as well as in lower computational time. In order to demonstrate the accuracy of
our analytical method, we present an exhaustive comparison of our full-wave analytical solution with a
numerical method such as rigorous coupled wave analysis (RCWA) of the same plasmonic structure. There is no
previous report of a comparison of a full-wave analytical solution—of plane wave scattering from this
nanostructure system (plasmonic nanowire array–spacer–plasmonic thin film)—with the results obtained
using RCWA.
The numerical method (RCWA) also enables the calculation of the scattered fields and reflection spectra
from this nanostructure system (plasmonic nanowire array–spacer–plasmonic thin film) having nanowires of
complex geometrical cross-sections—calculation of scattered fields for some of these geometries may not be
possible using analytical calculations. To demonstrate this, we carried out RCWA calculations of reflectance
spectra from this plasmonic nanostructure system comprising of nanowires with race track-shaped cross-
sections (having different aspect ratios (ARs)) separated from a plasmonic thin film by a spacer layer.
The nanostructure system (plasmonic nanowire array–spacer–plasmonic film) described in this paper can
be fabricated by first depositing a smooth thin film (>100 nm thick) of plasmonic metal (such as gold or silver)
using electron beam evaporation or sputter deposition. This would be followed by deposition of a thin
dielectric spacer layer (<10 nm) on the metallic thin film by employing processes such as atomic layer
deposition [11], layer-by-layer (LBL) deposition of polyelectrolytes [8, 9], and developing self-assembled
monolayers of amine-terminated alkanethiols [10]. Processes such as atomic layer deposition can enable
development of sub-5 nm spacer layers on top of thin films of plasmonic metals such as gold or silver.
Controllable deposition of thin films (1–5 nm thick) of several dielectric materials such as silica (SiO2),
alumina (Al2O3), etc has been carried out extensively using atomic layer deposition [11]. LBL deposition of
polyelectrolytes has been employed for developing sub-5 nm (even sub-1 nm) thin spacer layers on plasmonic
metal thin films [8]. Finally, arrays of plasmonic nanowires can be fabricated on top of the spacer layer by
employing nanolithography processes [32–36] such as electron beam lithography [33], deep UV lithography,
nano imprint lithography, or focused ion beam milling [32]. It has to be noted that the plasmonic nanowires
fabricated using one of the nanolithographic processes described above will have square (or rectangular)
cross-sections with rounded corners. As the spacing between adjacent nanowires described in our calculations
is 50 nm, these structures are easy to fabricated using electron beam lithography [33], resist development
followed by electron beam evaporation of the plasmonic metals, and finally metal lift-off.

2. Theoretical and numerical analysis of the plasmonic structure

2.1. Theoretical solution


In this section we approach the problem of obtaining the far-fields and near-fields of the nanostructure defined
above. We deal with the case of a transverse magnetic excitation, wherein the problem can be formulated as a
boundary value problem in Hz (r, f ) alone. A schematic figure of the nanostructure is shown in figure 2(a).
Figure 2(b) shows the choice of coordinate system for the solution.
Consider a plane wave at frequency w propagating at an angle a with the x-axis (a time dependence of
exp (-iwt ) is assumed and suppressed throughout the paper):

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Mater. Res. Express 3 (2016) 065004 A Thomas et al

Figure 1. 3D Schematic of the nanostructure analysed in this paper. The nanostructure comprises of a periodic array of cylindrical
plasmonic (gold) nanowires separated from a plasmonic (gold) film by a dielectric spacer. The figure also shows the excitation of the
system by an incident plane wave resulting in a scattered (reflected) wave.

Figure 2. (a) Schematic figure showing the plasmonic nanostructure being excited by a plane wave of wave vector ki. The plasmonic
material has a permittivity function ε(ω) and the nanoparticle is separated from the substrate of the same material by a spacer of
permittivity εs. (b) Schematic figure showing the choice of coordinates in the solution.

 inc
H = Hz zˆ = zH
ˆ 0 exp (ik 0 (x cos a + y sin a)) . (1)

The net magnetic field in vacuum Hzvac (r, f ) can be expressed as a sum of the incident magnetic field, given
by equation (1), and the scattered magnetic field Hzsca (r, f ): Hzvac (r , f ) = Hzinc (r , f ) + Hzsca (r , f ). The net
magnetic field inside the nanowires is denoted by Hzwire (r, f ). The unknown fields, Hzwire (r, f ) and Hzsca (r, f )
satisfy:
2Hzwire + k 2Hzwire = 0, (2)
2Hzsca + k 02 Hzsca = 0, (3)

where k 0 = m0  0 w 2 and k = m0  P w 2 ,  P being the frequency dependant permittivity of the plasmonic


metal. A 2D solution to the Helmholtz equation, 2v + k 2v = 0 in the cylindrical coordinates can be expressed

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Mater. Res. Express 3 (2016) 065004 A Thomas et al

as a linear combination of cylindrical wave-functions of the form Jn (kr ) exp (inf ) and Hn(1) (r , f ) exp (inf ). The
incident magnetic field given by equation (1), for instance, can be expressed as [37, 38]:
¥
Hzinc (r , f) = å i n exp ( - ina) Jn (k 0 r ) exp (inf) . (4)
n =-¥

The incident electromagnetic fields induce dipole oscillation in the nanowires, which emit their own fields.
These scattered fields can be written as a sum of the electromagnetic fields directly radiated by the cylinders and
the fields reflected off the spacer–vacuum interface: Hzsca (r , f ) = Hzrad (r , f ) + Hzrefl (r , f ). The radiated fields
can be expanded as superposition of outgoing cylindrical waves emitted by each of the nanowires:
¥
Hzrad = å Sm, n Hn(1) (k 0 rm) exp (infm) , (5)
n =-¥

where (rm, fm) are the cylindrical coordinates of the point of observation in the coordinate system centred at
(x , y ) º (mb, 0), which is also the centre of the mth cylinder from the origin. Note that the structure is periodic
in the x direction, with periodicity b, therefore:
Sm, n = Sm - 1, n exp (ik 0 b cos a) (6)
or equivalently:
Sm, n = Sn exp (ik 0 mb cos a) , (7)
where Sn are to be determined. Note that Hzrefl can be expressed as the sum of two components, Hzrefl
,I
corresponding to the direct reflection of the incident field and Hzrefl
,R corresponding to the reflection of the
radiated field. It is straightforward to compute Hzrefl
,I :

, I = G (k 0 cos a) exp (ik 0 (x cos a + (2d - y ) sin a)) ,


Hzrefl
¥
= G (k 0 cos a) exp (2ik 0 sin a) å i n exp (ina) Jn (k 0 r ) exp (inf) , (8)
n =-¥

where G (k x ) is the plane-wave reflection coefficient of the interface at y = d expressed as a function of the
, R , we follow the method presented by Borgi et al [28]. As a first step,
parallel wave vector k x . To compute Hzrad
HZrad is fourier transformed into a superposition of plane waves:
¥ ¥
òk =-¥ òk =-¥ H˜ z
rad
Hzrad = (kx , k y ) exp (i (kx x + k y y )) dkx dk y . (9)
x y

The reflected field corresponding to each of the plane wave components in equation (9) can be computed
using the plane-wave reflection coefficient. Hzrad
, R can therefore be expressed as:
¥ ¥
òk =-¥ òk =-¥ G (kx ) H˜ z
rad
,R =
Hzrad (kx , k y ) exp (i (kx x + k y (2d - y ))) dkx dk y . (10)
x y

Defining F˜ rad (k x , y ) by:


¥
òk
rad
F˜ rad (kx , y ) = H˜ z (kx , k y ) exp (ik y y ) dk y . (11)
y =-¥

Equation (10) can be written as:


¥
,R =
Hzrad òk x =-¥
G (kx ) F˜ rad (kx , 2d - y ) exp (ikx x ) dkx . (12)

To cast Hzrad
, R into a more usable form, we make use of the following identity, which allows us to evaluate the
Fourier transform of Hn(1) (k 0 r ) exp (inf ). with respect to x [39]:

1 ¥ 1 exp (iy k 0 - kx )
2 2 ⎛ ⎛ k ⎞⎞
2p ò-¥ Hn(1) (k 0 r ) exp (inf) exp ( - ikx x ) dx =
p k 02 - kx2
exp ⎜ - in cos-1 ⎜ x ⎟ ⎟ for y > 0. (13)
⎝ ⎝ k0 ⎠ ⎠

Using equations (5), (11) and (13), F˜ rad (k x , y ) can be written as:

¥ ¥
Sm, n exp (i ( ym k 02 - kx2 - kx mb)) ⎛ ⎛ k ⎞⎞
F˜ rad (kx , y ) = å å exp ⎜ - in cos-1 ⎜ x ⎟ ⎟ .
⎝ k0 ⎠ ⎠
(14)
n =-¥ m =-¥ p k 0 - kx ⎝
2 2

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Mater. Res. Express 3 (2016) 065004 A Thomas et al

With (x m, ym) º (x - mb, y ) being the Cartesian coordinates of the point of observation in the coordinate
system centred at (x , y ) º (mb, 0). Therefore, from equation (12), Hzrefl
, R can be expressed as:
¥
òk =-¥ G (kx ) F˜
rad
,R =
Hzrad (kx , 2d - y ) exp (ikx x ) dkx ,
x

¥ ¥
S m, n ¥ exp (i ((2d - ym ) k 02 - kx2 + kx x m )) ⎛ ⎛ k ⎞⎞
= å å p
n =-¥ m =-¥
òk =-¥
x
G (k x )
k 02 - kx2
exp ⎜ - in cos-1 ⎜ x ⎟ ⎟ dkx ,
⎝ ⎝ k0 ⎠ ⎠
¥ ¥ ¥ exp (2id k 02 - kx2 ) ¥
S m, n
= å å p
n =-¥ m =-¥
òk =-¥ x
G (k x )
k 02 - kx2
å
p =-¥
Jp (k 0 rm) exp (ipfm)

⎛ ⎛ k ⎞⎞
´ exp ⎜ - i ( p - n) cos-1 ⎜ x ⎟ ⎟ dkx ,
⎝ ⎝ k0 ⎠ ⎠
¥ ¥ ¥
= å å å Sm, n ¡p - n Jp (k 0 rm) exp (ipfm) ,
n =-¥ m =-¥ p =-¥
(15)
where

1 ¥ exp (2id k 02 - kx2 ) ⎛ ⎛ k ⎞⎞


¡n =
p òk =-¥x
G (k x )
k 02 - kx2
exp ⎜in cos-1 ⎜ x ⎟ ⎟ dkx .
⎝ ⎝ k0 ⎠ ⎠
(16)

Hzrefl is thus given by:


¥
Hzrefl = G (k 0 cos a) exp (2ik 0 d sin a) å i n exp (ina) Jn (k 0 r ) exp (inf)
n =-¥
¥ ¥ ¥
+ å å å Sn ¡p - n Jp (k 0 rm) exp (i ( pf + mk 0 b cos a)) . (17)
n =-¥ m =-¥ p =-¥

The magnetic field inside the nanowire centred at (0, 0) can be expanded as:
¥
Hzwire = å An Jn (kr ) exp (inf) , (18)
n =-¥

where An are unknown.


 To evaluate An and Sm, n, we impose the boundary conditions (continuity of the parallel

component of E and H ) at r = a :
[Hzcyl ]r = a = [Hzinc + Hzrad + Hzrefl ] ,
⎡ ¶H cyl ⎤ ⎡ ¶H cyl ¶Hzrad ¶Hzrefl ⎤
⎢ z ⎥ =⎢ z + + ⎥ . (19)
⎣ ¶r ⎦r = a ⎣ ¶r ¶r ¶r ⎦r = a

To apply the boundary conditions it is convenient to express the displaced cylindrical wave functions in
terms of the undisplaced cylindrical harmonics using the Graf’s addition theorems (for r < b and m ¹ 0)
[40]:
⎛ H (1) (k r ) exp (inf )⎞ ¥ ⎛T H ⎞
⎜⎜ n 0 m m ⎟
⎟= å ⎜ n - p, m ⎟ Jp (k 0 r ) exp (ipf) , (20)
⎝ Jn (k 0 rm) exp (infm) ⎠ ⎜ J ⎟
p =-¥ ⎝ Tn - p, m ⎠

where
TnH, m = ( - 1)n Hn(1) (k 0 mb) if m > 0,
= Hn(1) (k 0 mb) if m < 0, (21)
TnJ, m = (- 1)n Jn (k 0 mb) if m > 0,
= Jn (k 0 mb) if m < 0. (22)
Using the boundary conditions given by equation (19) and eliminating An we obtain:
¥
å Qp, n Sp + Ip = 0, (23)
p =-¥

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Mater. Res. Express 3 (2016) 065004 A Thomas et al

Figure 3. (a) Schematic showing the layered plasmonic structure analysed in this paper. The nanowires are placed periodically on top
of a stratified structure consisting of a dielectric spacer and an underlying plasmonic film. (b) Schematic from RSoft simulations
showing the position of the source of the incident electromagnetic radiation in one period.

where

⎡ kH (1) ¢ (k a) J (ka) - k H (1) (k a) J ¢ (ka) ⎤


Qp, n = dn, p ⎢ n 0 n 0 n 0 n

⎣ kJn¢ (k 0 a) Jn (ka) - k 0 Jn (k 0 a) Jn¢ (ka) ⎦
¥ ¥ ¥
+ å å exp (ik 0 mb cos a) ¡q - p TqJ- n, m + å exp (ik0 mb cos a) T pH- n,
m =-¥
(24)
q =-¥ m =-¥
m¹0

In = i n ( exp ( - ina) + G (k 0 cos a) exp (2ik 0 d sin a + ina)) . (25)

Note that till now, no significant approximations have been introduced in the above analysis. However to
obtain numerical estimates for the fields, it is essential to truncate equation (23) above a particular upper bound
on p. Equation (21) then becomes a set of linear equations that can numerically solved to obtain Sn .

2.2. Numerical analysis of the nanostructure using RCWA


The analytical solution presented in section 2.1 can be used to compute various optical parameters such as
reflectance and near field enhancements related to the nanostructure. It is of great interest to compare the
analytical solution with an independent numerical method so as to gauge the accuracy and applicability of the
analytical solution. The numerical method used to compute the spectra of the periodic nanostructure analysed
in this paper is the rigorous coupled wave analysis (abbreviated as RCWA) or the fourier modal method.
The RCWA method is a semi-analytical method based on the Floquet theorem [41], which decomposes the
spatial dependence of a harmonic electromagnetic field in a periodic structure as a linear combination of the
Bloch functions (spatial harmonics) of the nanostructure. Hench and Strakos have presented a complete
analytical treatment of the simple case of a rectangular grating on an underlying substrate using the Bloch states
in their paper [42]. The general RCWA method for gratings of an arbitrary shape (such as array of nanowires on
substrate) divides the entire space into layers perpendicular to the direction of periodicity. If the layer thickness is
much smaller than the dimensions of the grating, within a layer the grating boundary can be considered to be
almost rectangular and therefore the electromagnetic fields inside each layer can be expressed as a linear
combination of the rectangular Bloch functions. Imposition of the boundary conditions at the layer boundary as
well as the grating boundary results in a system of linear equations, which may be solved after truncating the
space harmonics beyond an upper bound to obtain the electromagnetic fields in space. The applicability of this
method to structures with dimensions in the nanometre range is well established [43–48].
A two dimensional schematic diagram—of periodically arranged gold nanowires over the goldfilm with a
thin oxide layer between them—is shown in figure 3. For the RCWA simulations used in this paper, convergence
in the optical fields was achieved with twelve spatial harmonics, for the smallest spacer thickness (t=2 nm). We
took a coarse index resolution in the y direction. The dielectric constant of gold was computed using the
Lorentz–Drude model [30, 31] described below:

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Mater. Res. Express 3 (2016) 065004 A Thomas et al

 p (w ) 6
Dn
=1-å , (26)
0 n = 1 a n w + ibn w - c n
2

where Δε1: 1589.516, Δε2: 50.19525, Δε3: 20.91469, Δε4: 148.4943, Δε5: 1256.973, Δε6: 9169; a1: 1, a2: 1, a3: 1,
a4: 1, a5: 1, and a6: 1; b1: 0.268419, b2: 1.220548, b3: 1.747258, b4: 4.406129, b5: 12.63, and b6: 11.21284; c1: 0, c2:
4.41745, c3: 17.66982, c4: 226.0978, c5: 475.1387, and c6: 4550.765.

3. Results and discussion

A quantity of interest related to the optical response of a nanostructure is its reflectance R, which is defined as the
ratio of the scattered power flowing through an area to the incident power passing through the same area. To
obtain estimates for the reflectance R, the summation in equation (23) was truncated above a bound N on p and
the resulting system of linear equations were numerically solved to obtain Sn, thereby making it possible to
numerically evaluate the scattered fields and thus the reflectance. The integral gn in equation (15) was evaluated
numerically using the Gaussian quadrature rule and the summations in the definition of Qp, n in equation (24)
were evaluated to convergence within an error of 10-4 . The value of N required in achieving convergence in the
optical fields depended upon the dimensions of the nanostructure. It was found in our computations that N
varied from 25 for t=8 nm to 50 for t = 2 nm to achieve convergence in R to an accuracy of 10-4 and showed
a weak dependence on the other parameters such as wire radius (a) and wire to wire gap (w = b - 2a ).
Figure 4 shows the variation of reflectance with λ for different spacer thicknesses calculated from the
analytical solution as well as using the RCWA simulation. The radius of the cylinders (a) was taken to be 30 nm
and the gap between adjacent cylinders (w) was taken to be 50 nm. The reflectance curves were evaluated for
different spacer materials: silica (ns=1.45), dense flint glass N-SF2 (ns=1.65), and alumina (ns=1.75).
The exciting wave was incident at an angle of 75° with the normal (α=15°). It can be observed from figure 4
that the analytical calculations and the RCWA simulation results—related to the primary plasmon resonance
wavelengths (indicated by the smallest minima in the reflectance versus λ curve)—had a good agreement. The
primary plasmon resonance wavelengths predicted by the analytical calculations and RCWA simulations
differed by ∼20 nm or less for most of the spacer thicknesses and refractive indices (see figures 4(b), (d),
and (f)).
It can also be observed from figure 4 that decreasing the spacer thickness leads to an increase in the
resonant wavelength. For example a ∼600 nm red-shift is observed for a change in the spacer thickness from
12 to 2 nm, in the case of some spacer materials such as alumina (see figure 4(f)). Decreasing the spacer
thickness leads to a greater coupling between the plasmonic nanowires and the plasmonic film and hence leads
to a reduction in the restoring forces acting on the conduction band electrons of the plasmonic materials. A
decrease in the restoring forces results in a decrease in the corresponding resonant frequency and hence an
increase in the resonant wavelength. Our analytical electromagnetic solution and RCWA simulations predict
similar variations in the resonant wavelength. The extremely large shifts in the plasmon resonance
wavelengths with the changes in spacer thickness can enable the development of very sensitive biological and
chemical sensors that are based on measuring the change in thickness of the spacer layer between the
plasmonic nanostructures and the underlying plasmonic film upon attachment of chemical or biological
molecules to binding sites on the spacer layer.
It is also observed that the diameter of the cylindrical nanowires has a considerable effect on the resonances
of the system. Keeping t, w and ns fixed, the reflectance curves for different values of a (i.e. the nanowire radius)
are plotted in figure 5. It is observed that the reflectance spectra shows a red-shift on increasing the wire
diameter. This is to be expected because increasing the diameter of the nanowire results in greater confinement
of the field energy in the spacer material and therefore a greater coupling between the fields of the plasmonic
nanowires and the plasmonic film. Moreover, changing the nanowire diameter (a) without changing the face to
face spacing (w) between the nanowires changes the periodicity ‘b’ of the nanowire array (where b=2a+w),
which also affects its resonances.
The discrepancies between the analytical calculations and RCWA simulations arise due to the inaccuracy of
the numerical method (RCWA) as compared to the analytical calculations. This is because the accuracy of the
results of the RCWA method are dependent on the number of harmonics taken. Moreover, RCWA uses the
Floquet's theorem assumption for periodic nanostructures, whereas no such assumption is made in the
analytical solution. The authors would like to mention that the analytical solution presented in our paper is more
accurate than RCWA as it is a full-wave analytical solution of this plasmonic nanostructure system (i.e. a
plasmonic nanowire array separated from a plasmonic thin film by a spacer layer) with no assumptions such as
the Floquet's theorem assumption for periodic nanostructures.
The authors would like to highlight that the analytical model takes significantly less computational time and
resources as compared to the RCWA method. Moreover, as the dimensions are made smaller, RCWA takes

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Mater. Res. Express 3 (2016) 065004 A Thomas et al

Figure 4. Comparison of reflectance spectra obtained using analytical calculations and RCWA simulations—for an Au nanowire array
separated from an Au film, the spectra being obtained for different spacer layer thicknesses ‘t’ and for following spacer refractive
indices: (a) ns=1 .45, (c) ns=1.65, and (e) ns=1.75. Variation of the resonant wavelength (λres) with ‘t’ for: (b) ns=1 .45, (d)
ns=1.65, and (f) ns=1.75. Nanowire radius a=30 nm, α=15°, and ‘cylinder to cylinder’ gap w=50 nm.

much more computational time as compared to the analytical method as larger number of harmonics are
required for smaller values of the spacer layer thickness or the nanowire diameters. The analytical method is also
more accurate than the RCWA method for a given computational time.

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Mater. Res. Express 3 (2016) 065004 A Thomas et al

Figure 5. Comparison of reflectance spectra obtained using analytical calculations and RCWA simulations—for an Au nanowire array
separated from an Au film, the spectra being obtained for different nanowire radii ‘a’ and for the following spacer refractive indices: (a)
ns=1 .45, (c) ns=1.65, and (e) ns=1.75. Variation of the resonant wavelength (λres) with ‘a’ for: (b) ns=1 .45, (d) ns=1.65, and
(f) ns=1.75. Spacer thickness t=2 nm, α=15°, and ‘cylinder to cylinder’ gap w=50 nm.

The authors want to highlight that the previous reports of the analytical solutions for any type of plasmonic
nanostructure in a plasmonic nanostructure–spacer–plasmonic thin film system have not considered the optical
field radiated by the top plasmonic nanostructures (separated from a plasmonic film by a dielectric spacer) to be
incident on the substrate (spacer–plasmonic film system) at multiple angles. In fact, the radiated field has been

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Mater. Res. Express 3 (2016) 065004 A Thomas et al

Figure 6. Comparison of reflectance spectra of an Au nanowire array separated from an Au film, for different aspect ratios ‘AR’ of the
nanowires, and for the following spacer layer thicknesses ‘t’: (a) t=2 nm, (b) t=4 nm and (c) t=6 nm. Nanowire width
‘B’=30 nm, α=15°, spacer layer refractive index ns=1.45, and ‘cylinder to cylinder’ gap w=50 nm.

previously approximated to be normally incident on the substrate [12]. In the analytical solution proposed in
this paper, we are not making any assumptions, and the optical field radiated by the plasmonic nanocylinders is
considered to be incident on the substrate at multiple angles. The authors also want to highlight that a full-wave
analytical solution of spherical plasmonic nanoparticles (spacer-separated from a plasmonic film) without
making the assumption of normal incidence—i.e. taking the optical field radiated by the top plasmonic
nanoparticle or nanoparticle array to be incident on the substrate (spacer–plasmonic film system) at multiple
angles—would become considerably complex even for a single spherical nanoparticle, and would be very
complex for a 2D array of periodic plasmonic nanoparticles. Moreover, the authors would like to mention that
while it is possible to carry out the analysis of 2-dimensionally periodic structures using the RCWA numerical
method, an analytical solution of a nanowire with the current cross-sectional profile is only possible for a 1D
array of nanowires, i.e. when the cylinders are infinitely long in the z-direction.

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Mater. Res. Express 3 (2016) 065004 A Thomas et al

Figure 7. (a) Schematic showing the plasmonic nanowire array–spacer–plasmonic film structure simulated using rigorous coupled
wave analysis. The structure consists of an array of cylindrical Au nanowires (nanowire diameter being 60 nm) separated from the
plasmonic film by a spacer with refractive index ns=1.45 and thickness=4 nm. The separation between neighbouring Au
nanowires was taken to be 50 nm. Light was incident on the plasmonic nanowire array–spacer–plasmonic film structure at an angle of
75° to the normal, (b) reflectance spectra obtained for this structure. Electric field enhancement (|E|/(|E0|) calculated On-resonance (at
890 nm) for: (c) Ey (electric field in the Y direction) and (d) Ex (electric field in the X direction). Electric field enhancement (|E|/(|E0|)
calculated Off-resonance (at 720 nm) for: (e) Ey (electric field in the Y direction) and (f) Ex (electric field in the X direction), where E0 is
the incident electric field.

RCWA simulations enable the calculation of the reflection spectra from a plasmonic nanowire array–
spacer–plasmonic thin film system containing nanowires of complex cross-sectional geometries, which may not
be possible using analytical calculations. The authors would like to mention that the cross-sectional geometry of
the plasmonic nanowires has a significant effect on the electromagnetic fields around the plasmonic nanowires.
Hence, it is very important to precisely model the geometry of the nanowires. Figure 6 shows reflectance spectra
(obtained using RCWA simulations) from a plasmonic nanostructure system comprising of nanowires with race
track-shaped cross-sections (having different ARs) separated from a plasmonic thin film by a spacer layer. It can
be observed from figure 6 that an increase in ARs of the nanowire cross-section leads to a red-shift in the

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Mater. Res. Express 3 (2016) 065004 A Thomas et al

Figure 8. The effect of refractive index of the spacer layer on the reflectance spectra—obtained using analytical calculations and
RCWA simulations—for an Au nanowire array spacer-separated from an Au film. Nanowire radius a=30 nm, α=15°, ‘cylinder to
cylinder’ gap w=50 nm, and spacer thickness t=2 nm.

plasmon resonance wavelengths. This is because of the greater field confinement and an increase in field
coupling between the nanowire array and the gold film, when the AR of the nanowire cross-section is increased.
Moreover, as the AR of the nanowire cross-section is increased, several other dips in the reflectance spectra are
observed, which correspond to the excitation of other plasmonic modes in this structure. As the AR of the
nanowire cross-section is increased, each region consisting of a plasmonic nanowire, the spacer, and an
underlying plasmonic film behaves like an MIM plasmonic waveguide, and other plasmonic waveguide modes
are observed. It has to be noted that analytical solutions for this nanostructure system cannot be easily obtained
for values of ARs other than 1.
We also calculated the electric-field enhancement at the resonance wavelength (On-resonance) and away
from the resonance wavelength (Off-resonance), as shown in figure 7. It can be seen from figure 7(b) that the
plasmon resonance wavelength for the nanowire array–spacer–plasmonic film structure is at 890 nm. We can
observe from figures 7(c) and (e) that the electric-field enhancement for the electric-field in the Y direction is
much higher for the On-resonance case (16.38) as compared to the Off-resonance case (3.78). Similarly, we can
observe from figures 7(d) and (f) that the electric-field enhancement for the electric-field in the X direction is
also higher for the On-resonance case (8.13) as compared to the Off-resonance case (1.89).
Changing the refractive index of the spacer material also has a considerable effect on the reflectance of the
system. An increase in the refractive index of the spacer results in an increase in the reflection coefficient Γ(kx).
An increase in the reflection coefficient results in a greater coupling between the fields of the nanowire and the
gold film, thus resulting in red-shifts of the plasmon resonances of the system. Figure 8 shows the variation in the
reflectance spectra of the system with spacer refractive index. Such a large dependence of the resonance
wavelength (a ∼400 nm shift for a change in refractive index from 1 to 1.45) on the refractive index of the spacer
material can be employed for sensing of the spacer materials—either chemical or biological molecules or
inorganic thin films, or for sensing of the molecules binding to these materials.
Hence, tuning the geometric parameters—of a plasmonic nanowire–spacer–plasmonic film system—can
enable the optimal design of plasmonic devices employed for sensing applications such as position sensing, film
thickness detection, as well as chemical and biological sensing.

4. Conclusion

This paper presented a full-wave electromagnetic solution to determine the optical fields scattered by an array of
plasmonic nanowires separated from a plasmonic film by a dielectric spacer. The problem of computing the
spatial fields was formulated as a boundary value problem. The analytical solution was compared to an
independent numerical method (RCWA) and it was observed that the analytical solution agreed with the
simulation results. It was found that the reflectance spectra (i.e. the reflectance versus wavelength of the incident
light) showed minimas at wavelengths that strongly depended on the geometry and the electromagnetic
properties of the structure. The effect of parameters—such as spacer thickness, nanowire diameter, and spacer
refractive index—on the reflectance spectra was analysed. The effects observed in the reflectance spectra were
similar to those predicted by the numerical simulations. An accurate analytical solution helps gain insight and an

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Mater. Res. Express 3 (2016) 065004 A Thomas et al

in-depth understanding of the behaviour of the optical properties of the nanostructure and hence would be an
invaluable resource for designing devices suited to various position and material sensing applications.

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the sponsors of this work: Department of Electronics and Information
Technology (DEITY), Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) of the Government
of India under grant number RP02395, Department of Science and Technology (DST) of the Government of
India under grant number RP03055, as well as the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) of the Government of
India under grant number RP02829 for their support.

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